The Raw Story revealed July 2 that The Washington Post hadn’t disclosed that blogger Patricia McGinnis has ties to the White House, even while she is blogging about the White House. The Post quickly disclosed the conflict of interest after The Raw Story’s article, according to an update on the original article.
McGinnis is an unpaid adviser to the White House on leadership programs for presidential appointees. The Raw Story included a section of The Washington Post’s media ethics policy which says among other things that “This newspaper is pledged to avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest, wherever and whenever possible” and that “Connections with government are among the most objectionable.”
The Raw Story pulled a selection of McGinnis’s writings that were favorable toward Obama, including a January 2010 post which praises Obama and an April 2009 post where she calls Obama’s international town hall meetings “smart.”
Raw Story posted in an update that The Washington Post’s communications director, Kris Corati, said in a statement that McGinnis, and other leadership panelists, aren’t paid or newspaper employees. Coratti’s statement said that McGinnis’s bio hadn’t been updated since she became an Obama adviser, but that the newspaper would update her biography (which it did) and would ask all panelists to “update their bios and disclose any potential conflicts.”
Hot Air wrote July 2 that “the Washington Post may have known” of the lack of disclosure, because Post reporter Ed O’Keefe’s July 2 story on White House payroll statistics released July 1.
O’Keefe’s article notes that three White House employees are unpaid, but he doesn’t identify them. Raw Story identified the three – one being McGinnis and the other two are Special Assistant to the White House Council on Women and Girls Maggie Chen and Dr. Shale L. Wong, an adviser to the Office of the First Lady Michelle Obama on childhood obesity.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics advises that journalists “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived,” “disclose unavoidable conflicts of interest” and “remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.”